I appreciate the comments on my column from last week, which have helped me create a focus for this week's: What is the nature of homosexual sin?
For centuries homosexuality has been an underground issue in the church, partly on the principle that if we ignore it, it isn't there. That stance-or actually lack of stance-became impossible in the 1980s, with the outbreak of AIDS and the mobilization of forces on both sides.
I remember sermons on Romans 1:27 and stern, clinical descriptions of homosexual acts in parachurch ministry newsletters. Christians couldn't afford to be ignorant about the threat. We gathered our children close and prayed hedges of protection around them, banded together in homeschool support groups, swapped biblical admonitions and advice. Eventually the kids grew up, and as reports from the first wave of adult homeschoolers come in, it seems that no child-raising style is a guarantee against original sin. They've made bad marriages and hurtful choices … and some have come out as gay, enough that we can no longer pretend this is an outside problem.
Recently a friend described the anguish her son went through from a very early age, raised in a Bible-believing church among peers who casually dissed "fags." Now, in his early 30s, he has found happiness with a partner in a city large enough to contain like-minded communities. He lives quietly, doesn't flaunt or conceal his orientation, and feels that he has found his place. "This is who I am," he says.
Who wouldn't feel a twinge of sympathy for this young man? Especially since he's unwittingly bared his soul.
Sin is not primarily a matter of what we do but of who we are. Who we are-liars, idolaters, adulterers, hypocrites, perverts-is at the root of all our woes. We all lie, to ourselves most of all; we all worship unworthy substitutes; we all stray from our true love; we all pretend righteousness we don't have; we all misuse God's good gifts to our own petty ends. The great failure of the church is that hypocrites and liars, etc., have been made to feel comfortable because their sins can be disguised or hidden. The peculiar burden of a homosexual is transparency: "The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them into judgment, but the sins of others appear later" (1 Timothy 5:24). All sin will be revealed eventually (Numbers 32:23), but in the meantime, no sin can be justified on the basis of "This is who I am."
And here is where we lay bare the workings of the world. Being true to one's self (as long as no one else gets hurt-the standard disclaimer) is now an article of faith-possibly the ultimate article of faith. Christians may protest that nobody can be true to himself if he misunderstands his basic nature (see Jeremiah 17:9), but nobody gets it. The contemporary world ascribes more authority to its own cacophonous voice than to God's. Unbelievers buddy up to God when He agrees with them but ignore or explain Him away when He doesn't. The hiss of the serpent ("Did God actually say …?" Genesis 3:1) is now the roar of the crowd. The danger of mainstreaming homosexuality is not more homosexuals-I suspect the level of practice will remain about what it is now. The real problem for believers is that a very obvious scriptural prohibition is rendered null and void, and to the extent the church is faithful to Scripture, she is worse than irrelevant-she's the enemy. Scriptural authority has always been unpopular, but with the blatant elevation of man as the measure of all things it's become heretical.
As one commenter pointed out, we're playing by different rules. To the world, man's word trumps. To the church, God's Word wins all hands. How can we play this game? Not by accommodating ourselves to changing rules, but by raising the stakes. Homosexual behavior is sin, but not the ultimate sin. The ultimate sin is disbelief-calling God a liar. Can we go so far as to say that no one will go to hell for homosexual acts? Hell is for those who call God a liar about their disease and will not accept His gracious cure.
To be continued …